6 Appliances That Trip Circuit Breakers and Potential Solutions

Becca Stokes
Written by Becca Stokes
Updated July 19, 2021
woman in white robe in white bathroom uses hairdryer and smiles
Photo: spaskov / Adobe Stock

Certain appliances, like hair dryers and irons, are prone to tripping breakers more often than others

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We’ve all been there: You’re blow-drying your hair in the bathroom and suddenly everything shuts down. You’ve tripped a circuit breaker. Depending on the circumstance, anything you use could trip your circuit breakers. However, there are six appliances that are likely to trip breakers on a regular basis. Learn which ones they are and what you can do to minimize an appliance short circuit in your home.

History of Circuit Breakers

Prior to the 1920s, we didn’t have circuit breakers, we had electrical fuses and when they blew out due to an excessive drain on power, an electrical short or fault, they had to be swapped out for new fuses. 

Unlike fuses, which must be replaced once blown, you can manually reset breakers after each use. In modern homes, these breakers are attached to a central electrical panel, often found near the furnace or water heater.

Each breaker is assigned a specific circuit in the home, most often differentiated by room. Springs or compressed air in the breakers allow them to snap open, instantly cutting power when a fault is detected. They can then be reset for another use.

Your living room, for example, may have a single breaker that controls every outlet, while the kitchen may have two or three: one for outlets, and another for large appliances. This means that if a breaker "trips," all of its outlets will stop working until it's reset.

6 Appliances That Can Cause a Circuit Overload

While any appliance can trip a breaker, some appliances are more fault-prone than others. Here are six of the most common appliances that may cause a circuit overload.

1. Fans

Fans are definitely on the list of appliances that trip breakers, so be careful how you’re using them to keep cool in the summer months. One fan running on high may not use a lot of power, but multiple fans running at the same time can add up to a serious power drain that may trip your breakers. It’s a good rule of thumb to limit the amount of fans you have on at the same time.

2. Irons

Irons create a lot of heat very quickly. Many people will iron in rooms that aren’t designed to handle the kind of power needed to get an iron hot fast. Switch your location to the kitchen, which is wired to handle major appliances. 

3. Extension Cords

Extension cords are a great fix for a room that isn’t wired enough to your liking, but make sure you’re using them wisely to avoid tripping your circuits. Only use one extension cord per circuited area of your home, and avoid plugging extension cords into other extension cords. This is asking for an electrical overload. 

4. Old Refrigerators

Refrigerators have improved in power use significantly in the last 20 years. But because many of these appliances last more than a decade, older models are still being used in some homes. These power-hungry fridges can easily start drawing too much power if a home's temperature rises significantly during a heatwave or if an air conditioner breaks down, causing a trip.

If replacing an appliance or limiting use doesn't solve circuit breaker problems, you may have a short circuit or ground fault that needs to be addressed. In both of these cases, hiring a professional electrician is recommended, since tracking down the short can be both time-consuming and dangerous. When it comes to consistent circuit tripping, you're always better to err on the side of safe—not sorry.

5. Hair Dryers

Hair dryers, curling irons, and flat irons are common appliances that trip breakers. To generate significant heat in a short period, these items draw a serious amount of power from circuits. Some bathrooms are equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), which break the circuit at that specific outlet and can be manually reset. 

But you probably won't find GFCIs in bedrooms or other rooms in your home, so stick to doing your hair in the bathroom.

6. Vacuums

Vacuum cleaners use a tremendous amount of power, but that’s not the only thing that makes them a likely appliance for tripping your circuit breaker. Vacuums contain motors, which can trip something in circuit breakers known as the “nuisance breaker,” an interior mechanism designed to prevent electric overloads. If this keeps happening, have a local electrician inspect your breaker. 

Circuit Breaker Keep Tripping?

If you have tried to swap out new appliances for old and you’re still tripping your circuit breakers, it’s time to call in a professional to look for a short or a ground fault. Since dealing with electricity can be dangerous, this job is best left to a pro. You might also consider adding a dedicated circuit.

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